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Trust funding is helping combat fuel poverty in the Outer Hebrides

In the first of our ‘Spotlight On Funded Projects’ series we learn more about the challenges faced by communities across the country and how Trust funding is helping combat the effects of poverty. 

Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) supports communities in the Western Isles – or Outer Hebrides – to rent, buy and live in comfortable, affordable homes; promoting healthy independent living and assisting communities and businesses to be more sustainable.

The charity helps local people to reduce energy bills using practical measures, in-depth energy and money advice and referrals to other organisations.

The British Gas Energy Trust is an independent charity, separate to, but solely funded by British Gas that offers support to individuals across the England, Scotland and Wales in three ways: energy debt relief grants, emergency small energy grants and a network of over 45 funded money and energy advice projects.

The Trust funded project in the Wester Isles, Community Energy Outreach, provides support and advice to vulnerable households across the isles, where 57% of homes are in fuel poverty.

It also means that people living within this community will have year-round access to a dedicated adviser – Theresa MacDonald.

And Theresa’s work is already underway, supporting scores of residents with home visits, heating advice, reprogramming of heating controls, giving advice about renewables, helping to alleviate fuel debt, applications for funding and advocating on behalf of customers when it comes to talking to their energy providers.

She has visited other organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Financial Inclusion, NHS Health Promotion and Community Energy Scotland, as well as conducting a range of events from parent’s evenings to open days at local shops to promote the support available within the region.

Having previously worked in adult education in North Lanarkshire, Theresa returned home after 15 years on the mainland to make a difference to her Hebridean community.

Her interest in energy advice sparked in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, when she was helping people access funding.

Theresa said: “I was speaking to someone in their 60’s who hadn’t got their Warm Homes Discount, but I knew they were eligible for it. I realised that if I hadn’t have stepped in to support them, they wouldn’t have got it. What I did that day really made a difference to their lives.

“Having worked in the community for the last seven years, I’ve seen the impact the current economic climate is having, and the cost-of-living increases are having on people. I am delighted to take on this position as I am able to make a difference and support people in Uist and Barra. I am most looking forward to getting out in the community and meeting people.

“People don’t realise what fuel poverty is really. Unfortunately, it has become the norm here in the Western Isles. They don’t recognise it themselves. They just see it as something they have to pay so get on with it, but householders rationing, and self-disconnecting is a big concern. They don’t necessarily know that there is support out there for people. And even if they do know the support is there, people can be quite proud and not ask for support. However, we have seen high demand with the return of energy advice in Uist and Barra and ask that anyone in need does come forward and we will support in the best way possible.”

The Trust currently has two funds open. The Individuals and Families Fund is open to pre-payment meter customers of any energy company. The Energy Support Fund is open to British Gas customers only, on credit or pre-payment meter accounts. To find out if you are eligible for these funds, please click here.

For more information about money and energy advice available in your area, please click here.